The debate for the future of Turkey's political system is playing out in streets and squares in Istanbul, the country's largest metropolis.
The debate for the future of Turkey's political system is playing out in streets and squares in Istanbul, the country's largest metropolis.

1. Competing campaigns have hit the streets ahead of an April 16 referendum in which Turkish voters will decide on a package of constitutional changes.

2. Graffiti, stickers, and posters are popping up all over the nation, including on Istiklal Caddesi — the vibrant thoroughfare that plays host to Istanbul's nightlife near Taksim Square.

3. The country's political parties back opposing sides of the referendum — the ruling AK Party and their coalition partner, the MHP, are hoping for a ‘Yes' vote, while the opposition parties, CHP and HDP, are pushing for a ‘No'.

4. Opinion polls also show that public opinion is mixed — and as April 16th draws closer, neither side has come out with a clear lead.

5. At stake is a decision to transform the country from a semi-parliamentary system to a presidential system.

6. The proposed constitutional changes will transfer the powers of the head of state from the prime minister to the president.

7. It's led to heated debate within the country, with many defending their positions as to what the future may hold — debating on the streets, on social media and through their sloganeering—some of it impromptu.

8. Campaign banners, billboards, and flags adorn the city in President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's home neighbourhood of Kasımpaşa.

9. But in every neighbourhood across the nation, vigorous campaigns are underway. In some instances, campaigners are stationed side by side, hoping to win support.

10. Raucous street dances, performances and mobile campaigns are also underway.

11. The campaigns are increasingly sophisticated; the ‘No' camp relies on a simple image of a young girl, conjuring ideas of the nation's future.

12. The ‘yes' camp uses slogans such as Daima Millet— or "Forever Nation, our decision is yes." Another is Once Memleket, tabii ki evet or "Our home country — resolutely yes juxtaposed against gently-lit photographs of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and Prime Minister Binali Yildirim.

13. Over 150,00 polling stations will be open across the country, and 53 million people will be eligible to vote in the referendum.

14. AK Party leaders argue the changes are necessary to consolidate decision-making and to correct long-standing weaknesses in the constitution.

15. But as the AK Party holds a majority in parliament, the opposition is concerned the president will gain too much power. Either way, on April 16, the nation will participate in a democratic process. The countrywide poll takes place nearly a year after a coup could have destroyed the nation's very existence—a remarkable feat.

Source: TRT World